A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Musette

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MUSETTE, diminutive of the old French 'muse,' both meaning an instrument of the bagpipe family, consisting of two pipes or reeds and a drone, supplied with wind from a leathern reservoir. [See Bagpipe.] Like the Irish bagpipe it is inflated by bellows placed under the performer's arm. The original compass was ten notes (a); but by the addition of holes and keys the scale was increased to thirteen (b):

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \time 2/4 f'4^"(a)" a'' \bar "||" e'^"(b)" c''' \bar "||" }

Limited as were its resources, this instrument was once a favourite, and under Louis XIV was introduced, first into the court ballets, and then into the divertissements or entr'actes of operas. Ladies even learned to play it, and had highly ornamented instruments made for their use.

The best information on the subject is to be obtained from Mersenne's 'Harmonie Universelle,' Borjon's 'Traité de la Musette,' a folio with plates (Lyons 1672), and 'Méthode pour la Musette' (Paris, Ballard, 1737), by Louis Hotteterre, a well-known flute player, the son (according to his own statement) of Martin Hotteterre, composer and virtuoso. From these works we learn that the best makers were Le Vacher; the Hotteterres, father and two sons, Nicolas and Jean; Lissieux; Perrin, etc. The best-known players were Philippe Chèdeville (died in Paris 1782), a valued member of the orchestra at the Opéra from 1725 to 1749, and his brother Nicolas. Both published pieces for two musettes, now in the library of the Conservatoire at Paris.

2. Also a small oboe without keys, generally in G; not to be confounded with the 'hautbois de forêt' or 'oboe piccolo.'

3. The term is also applied to an air in 2-4, 3-4 or 6-8 time, of a moderate tempo, and smooth and simple character, appropriate to the instrument from which it takes its name. Thus a musette generally has a pedal-bass answering to the drone or bourdon, and the upper part abounds in grace-notes and rapid passages. To these airs were arranged pastoral dances, also called musettes, which were in great favour under Louis XIV and Louis XV, especially the latter, as may be seen by the pictures of Watteau and others of that school.

Among the most celebrated musettes may be mentioned those in 'Callirhoé' and 'Nina,' operas by Destouches and Dalayrac. They are to be found in Bach's English Suites, nos. 3 and 6, and in the sixth of Handel's Grand Concertos, of which we quote a few bars:—

{ \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical << \new Staff { \time 3/4 \key ees \major \relative g { r4 g aes | <bes g>4. <c aes>8 <bes g>4 | <c aes>16( <d bes> <ees c>8) q2 | <d bes>16( <c aes> <bes g>8) ~ q2 | <bes g'>4 << { f' ees8. f16 | d4. c8[ bes aes] } \\ { c2 bes r4 } >> | g4 <g bes> aes | s_"etc." } }
\new Staff { \clef bass \key ees \major <<
 \new Voice { \stemUp ees2 f4 | g ees2 | ees2. ^~ ees ^~ ees4 c' aes | f2. | ees4 ees f }
 \new Voice { \stemDown \relative e, { ees2. _~ ees _~ ees _~ ees | ees4 aes f | bes c d | ees ees,2_( | s4) } } >> }
>> }

[ G. C. ]